Drum & bass, Detroit techno, and now…post-punk? It seems unlikely that many would have expected Untold to conclude his trilogy of EPs with two tracks that could have emerged out of the dancepunk boom of ten years ago, but those privy to his entry into the LuckyMe mixtape series – comprised entirely of post-punk and hardcore – will know that he is something of an aficionado on the subject, and if anything these tracks just prove that the DNA of early 80s British guitar music runs deep enough to show its dominant traits once every few musical generations.
In a recent interview with FACT, Untold, otherwise known as Jack Dunning, suggested he was “just another dubstep producer washing up on techno’s beach in 2012”. In many ways this is unfair to his unique production style, which arguably has always had more in common with techno than many of his contemporaries – developing on a course outside of either genre over the past four years, culminating in the release of Little Things Like That on Clone’s Basement Series last November. It was an EP that combined the rudeness of a jungle track heard through a grainy FM pirate radio broadcast with the piston-pumping dub atmospherics of the new school of contemporary Dutch techno producers, and remains as compelling an example as any (along with Blawan’s Peaches EP) of the rich potential for bass influenced techno.
What happens when you bring together Hemlock boss Jack Dunning and one of Europe’s most established electronic music labels? Based on this release, it sounds like one of those rare occasions when the past and the present come together in perfect unison.
It’s no coincidence that Clone have decided to issue Little Things Like That or to pick their Basement Series sub-label, home to all things jacking, for its release. Indeed the title track wears the past audibly and make specific reference to the music that inspires Clone, as doubled up claps usher in insistent bass surges reminiscent of Drexciya and churning chords that sound like Sean Deason or Carl Craig’s 90s techno. Signs that the arrangement is veering into less recognizable territories come as layer upon layer of woozy riffing appear, eventually giving way to a dreamy reverie. However, soon enough, the sub-aquatic bass and jacking rhythm come again to the fore.
“Bachelor’s Delight” is less indebted to classic narratives; toy town riffs and what could be a kid’s xylophone ride a swinging rhythm, and as the track progresses the murderous bass becomes more pronounced. “Delight” reaches a crescendo as Untold’s subs reach queasy levels and a volley of scattergun FX, which centre on an insistent bell chime, dominate the high end. It doesn’t make the title track sound dated; indeed it captures the zeitgeist more effectively than an army of trend watchers.
You could forgive Jack Dunning for feeling a fatherly sense of pride, perhaps even a hint of smugness, when he looks around and surveys the post-dubstep landscape. The Leeds based producer and label boss, better known as Untold, has long been at the coalface of this movement – the Hemlock imprint that he co-runs with Andy Spencer unearthed James Blake, after all – yet Dunning has shown himself to be a character who prefers to keep his head down and let the music speak for itself .
Past interviews have shown him to be one of the most lucid commentators on the musical sphere in which he operates, yet it’s his laid back approach that appeals most, refusing to be drawn into hype or fad. With releases on a growing number of influential labels (Numbers, Hessle, Soul Jazz and of course Hemlock) already under the belt, 2010 saw Dunning unveil a side of his sonic palette that predated dubstep by a decade or more, with the superb rave, techno and breaks influenced Stereo Freeze EP for R&S.
We caught up with the producer ahead of his performance at next month’s Bloc festival to discuss his upcoming collaborative album, the SSSSS sub-label and what tracks are ever present in his record bag. Read the rest of this entry »
Having sprung into our collective consciousness after releases on Black Acre and Hemlock only last year, Fantastic Mr Fox is back with his first release of 2010 – a double pack 10” on the aforementioned Bristol based imprint Black Acre. The Wolverhampton based producer, real name Stephen Gomburg, has caused quite a stir in recent months, having remixed Untold’s “Yukon”, Zed Bias’s “Two Sides” and also appeared on a split 12” with hotly tipped R&S signing Pariah. In addition to this the wily fox has also been collaborating with Jamie Smith from The xx and even toured with the band across the US in September this year. Now releasing the follow up to his Sketches EP, Fantastic Mr Fox brings us four fresh new cuts in his Evelyn EP.
Starting with the eponymous track of the EP, the gently thumping drum kicks and anxious squeaking which comes to define the intro are deftly chopped up Mount Kimbie-style with cooing vox and clacking woodblock beats. Not one to rest on his laurels, Fantastic Mr Fox develops these elements in the main part of the track, interspersing them with jiving rhythms and woozy, stabbing chords. Moving into the second track of the EP, “Fool Me” is a sombre affair with mournful and faint atmospherics woven around a lowly thudding b-line. Building the textures into a tapping, densely layered tune, it’s a stark contrast to the next track, “Over”, which is a more restrained, stripped back number. Stepping rhythms drag luxuriously over anguished vocals and that same dull throb of melancholia which the EP seems to be steeped in. “Sepia Song”, the final track of the EP, brings together all the sentiments explored elsewhere, with dribbling ripples of SFX, hollow clunking beats, swirling future garage sounds, all soaked in the sepia tones of the title. A formidable follow up to Sketches.
Cosmin Nicolae, the Romanian supplier of fine flavours of funky, dubstep and experimental house, has an impressive track record and diamond studded production history. With a slew of releases on such renowned labels as Tempa, Hessle Audio, Hotflush, Naked Lunch, Soul Motive and more, “Tower Block” marks his debut 12” on Untold’s Hemlock Recordings.
A patter of clip clop beats and hissing percussion, interspersed with the subtlest of cheeky blimps, kicks things off on the A Side. Crackling, white noise type shuffles and a warping, hiccupping rhythm lead into a chirruping number, rebounding with curious idiosyncratic energy. Low-end flurries of bass compliment the delicious melody in the most alluring of ways – a disconcerting, dark room vibe, exacerbated by a palette of sounds which bounce around the soundscape like rogue elements.
On the flipside, “Breton Brut” sees TRG tuning into more bizarre experimentalism, utilising a strange combing rhythm, a similar booming bass to that of “Tower Block”. Sweeping SFX, like nocturnal creatures whistling, shuffling and whispering between each other plague the track. The track builds gradually, layer upon layer, yet never quite settles. There is a pervasive sense of anticipation and impending doom as the drums change their pace and style around the half way mark to a more frantic tribal, out of breath sound, pacing over the top in the lengthy six minute venture.
You can always rely on Ramadanman. The ever-prolific, highly renowned Hessle Audio favourite comes up trumps once again with this beautiful, soulful slice on Hemlock Recordings (the label co-owned by London based producer, Untold, which has seen such luminaries as James Blake, Pangaea and Fantastic Mr Fox pass through its forward thinking, open minded doors already).
Gloopy, distorted, slightly mournful vocals and ticking, hollow beats get “Glut” off to an enticing start. Thumping bass stabs, mechanised drum patterns and melancholic organ-sounding orchestrals are introduced after the two minute mark, with a slow building, gentle crescendo-ing force, interspersed by vocal parts to break up the ongoing movement onwards, ever onwards. Contrasting textures and sounds play off each other here to great effect. Inspiring, deeply moving and delicately articulated, “Glut” is possibly one of Ramadanman’s most poignant and reflective works to date, with a wailing synth slowly dying and trailing out towards the end.
“Tempest” may be familiar to those of you who heard Scuba’s ‘Sub:stance’ mix from earlier on this year. The seven-minute contemplation is initiated by a simple rat-a-tat of wood on metal-sounding timbre. Sonic blips form the basis for a gently evolving, expansive soundscape rife with subtle glitches and atmospherics, which drift in and out of our consciousness. A defiant drum kick interrupts the blissed out subtle euphoria of the first section half way through, marking a movement towards a more punchy, bleepy second phase, yet strangely retaining the ambience that seems to consistently underpin Ramadanman’s productions. It’s tempestuous, but not entirely tempest-like (there’s a distinction to be made here, somehow).
Review: Belinda Rowse